Corporate brand feminism !

A couple of days ago, I chanced upon this interview of Estee Adoram, who is a successful comic show booker in the United States carried by the Lenny Magazine. The subject and the highlight of the piece was her refusal to be identified as a feminist. While in her long career in the comic show business, as one could imagine, she would have had to overcome many challenges to reach where she is today, her iron-clad self refuses to acknowledge any. While this approach may work for her, it is rather disappointing to see her fail to reach out to women who deal with misogyny and discriminatory treatment at workplace.

I invited a dear friend- Gargi Mishra to give us her opinion on this interview piece. To me Gargi is an avid reader, thinker and a critique. I am often brought up to speed on raging debates through her stimulating emails. Her view on feminism is also complemented by her work in the arena with the Women’s Rights Initiative at Lawyers Collective.

Here is what she had to say:

I grew up in India in a middle-class family, and my parents valued academic success above all else. They never made me feel that I was intellectually inferior to my male peers. I had the same opportunities as boys of my socio-economic background, and I worked hard and did well in school. It was easy for me to slip into the belief that only personal talents and qualities mattered in life. But while I didn’t have any fetters placed on my academic or professional ambitions, I soon found out how stifling and dangerous our culture can be for girls. I could not dress in a certain way, I could not talk to boys on the phone (“what sort of a girl has guy friends? Certainly not one from a decent family!”- my parents would ask accusingly), I could not even whistle in the house or in the street (“That’s not what girls do!”). I found myself shrinking from the openly lecherous glances of men on the street, I had to fight back tears when anonymous hands grabbed my breasts in the milling crowds in Delhi’s biggest metro station and I hated myself for years because I did not fit into societal standards of female beauty. But I did not see this as a part of a wider, structural problem. Yes, many of my female school and college friends too had been sexually harassed on the streets, and reading the papers everyday brought one face to face with the reality of rapes and domestic violence. But I had somehow accepted it as the natural order of things. Bad things happened in the wider world, girls were vulnerable in the public sphere and so one had to take certain precautions to be safe.

It is feminism that opened my eyes to the reality, that provided me with a startling perspective on things. I learned about patriarchy, the prison of gender, the underlying factors behind violence and discrimination against women, the corrosive beauty standards imposed on women. Feminism was a lens through which disparate things like beauty, violence, love, history were brought together and made coherent. It taught me to think in ways that made truth accessible and knowable and it was wholly empowering. It also taught me about privilege and power.

I was born into a upper-caste family in India, and I too benefited from centuries of advantage and entitlements granted to my caste. My father was in stable employment and he saw the value of educating me in the best schools in Delhi. Being in Delhi, having access to books and the internet and caring teachers, I was exposed to an expansive world view and had the opportunity to pursue a career of my choice. And feminism helped me to see that these circumstances were really a privilege granted to me by reason of my class and caste. I learned to see the deeply entrenched structural disadvantages facing poor, “low”-caste men and women and the staggering barriers that disabled people or LGBT persons fought against.

Feminism encouraged an ethic of empathy, of learning to see the world beyond the narrow confines of my own identity. And that is perhaps what Estee Adoran and women like her should also learn.
In a short interview by Lena Dunham, Estee Adoran, the charismatic doyenne of New York’s stand-up comedy club the Comedy Cellar, takes care to stress that she is not a feminist. As a white, Jewish woman in America, she has risen to the top managerial position in the celebrated club that hosts such comedy greats like Jerry Seinfeld and Louis C.K. She is a friend and a mentor to many comics and Dunham notes Adoran’s magnetic personality and the warm regard and frank admiration that she enjoys from famous artists.

Adoran says that she joined the club as a hostess and rose to her current position as “Every time someone left or died, I got a part of their job“. She attributes her success to her ambition to be the person in charge. She says that, “I was in charge. I have pictures to show, to prove it. There is something in my character, I guess, that makes it happen. I never felt: “I am not allowed to do that because I’m a woman.” Feminism would step in and say, this is a blockage here. I never felt that. I worked, I worked hard, and I always was recognized for the job.

This exposes a fundamental misunderstanding of feminism- feminism is not an ideology for inventing excuses and barriers to progress and success! It is also unfortunately a very common misunderstanding. Perhaps it’s encouraged by the particularly American myth of hard work and grit being the only factors responsible for success. Adoran, being white and Jewish (Hollywood and American media have a significant number of Jewish people in positions of power), has benefited from the advantages of her race. Saying this is not a way to diminish her talents and her hard work. Her success and fame is admirable and laudatory but it does call for an acknowledgment of her privilege and attendant responsibility.  She is in a position to help young, struggling female comediennes to navigate a hostile, male-dominated entertainment industry. She recognizes that there may be a problem of unequal pay, but chooses to limit her observation to the fact that yes, she would like to make more money but “it’s not an issue” for her.
Her decision to not identify as a feminist is an unfortunate cop-out, an evasion of the debt that she owes to feminists that made it possible for women like her to be equal citizens in America, to be independent and respected business-owners and managers. Since the struggle for equal rights is still not over, not by a long shot, powerful and successful women like her can do their bit to advance the cause. But it requires a willingness to look beyond oneself, to recognize one’s responsibility and power.

Advertisements

Back off! Its my muesli!

Get this- So a couple of weeks ago, me and my flatmates got into a huge fight. It started from me asking one of them if they had seen the pineapple I had bought, since it had gone missing from the refrigerator. They replied no and began a hugely unnecessary name calling which apparently arose from our collective apathy towards the cleanliness situation in the flat. While this person totally succeeded in sidetracking the issue, I persisted and found out who the pineapple thief was.

Well, they had the decency to buy me another pineapple, but since then, I have been experiencing another problem. Someone is stealing my muesli! At first I began to suspect it when I would walk into the kitchen and find muesli bits scattered on the counter. What compounds my suspicion is that no-one else has got muesli in their shelves. So either my muesli is doing a toy-story or someone has been manhandling it.

This afternoon, when I went into my kitchen I found myself, staring at bits of my precious coconut muesli hideously  swept under the garbage bag. I went to check my muesli bag, it was closed so securely that my suspicions of it flying out under zero gravity conditions and landing behind the bag were put to rest. I must admit. This is mildly annoying. Has any of you dealt with such a situation before? Let me know what you did and help a sister out! 🙂

 

P.S. – Apologies for this post being after such a long gap. I promise I will try being more regular!

Deception

Deception lurks in unexpected places and presents itself in manifestations you couldn’t imagine. We all know how recipe books and cooking websites succeed. Because there is no way to taste food through paper or computer screens. The authors of recipes in these books and websites face no accountability or a monitoring mechanism. Their families and the cooking assistants have beguiled them into believing that they can cook. So much, that they start inflicting recipes onto the rest of the world. Although I wonder why no-one is asking for their money back. I figure, this systemic problem is compounded by our low self esteems. We all think we aren’t good enough cooks. (Eye roll!)

I am currently in the middle of a short-lived lifestyle experiment, which has resulted in my fridge-shelf resembling the forest my University is built in. With all the leafy greens and nowhere to run off to, I decided to look for a good looking recipe and found one. Spinach pasta.

Ingredients– One onion (finely chopped), three cloves of garlic (diced), one tomato (also finely chopped), 100 gm of spinach, 100 grams pasta, oil, salt, a pinch of red chilli powder, chilli sauce, yoghurt.

Procedure– Put the pasta to boil in water. Add a hint of salt and oil.

Begin with lightly sautéing the garlic and the onions in about 1 tablespoon oil.Once they are cooked you add the tomato and spinach and wait for them to cook.

Once it cooks into a mush, you can add two teaspoons of salt and a pinch of red chilli powder. Add the cooked pasta and stir for a couple of minutes so it absorbs the rest of the ingredients. If the mix feels too dry, you can add 2 or 3 tablespoons of the water in which the pasta has been cooking.

Outcome– Needless to say, I was disappointed. I had added too much salt and the whole thing tasted like nothing. This is why I threw in the otherwise unexplainable yogurt into the ingredients which made it slightly tolerable.

P.S.- Have you tried recipes which turned out disastrous? Let me know. I need reinforcement.

 

This is not a cooking blog

Once you figure out how are you going to fit cooking in your youtube video watching schedule, it can be quite a pleasant exercise. Some of you like my cooking (there has got to be something wrong with you guys!), so I am writing this to share a cooking hack. If you are a workaholic, this is the right post for you.

The ingredients include some spaghetti, instant mushroom soup mix, salt, oil, water and mushrooms (use quantities by approximation, I trust you are not an idiot!). You can begin by putting the spaghetti to boil in water. Sprinkle a hint of oil and some salt and wait for it to cook. It should take about ten minutes in total. When the spaghetti is close to being cooked, put a pan on heat and sauté the mushrooms in some oil. As the spaghetti is close to cooking, pour the spaghetti along some of the cooking water in the pan and add the instant soup mix. Stir continuously to avoid lumps and let the spaghetti cook in the soup. Go ahead, grate some cheese on top if you are feeling cheesy!

And it turns out something like this:

spaghetti and soup
Yumm!

Showering in a parallel universe!

showering in parallel universe!
‘So this is more or less how it feels’

So you know how shower is the place where some people get the best of ideas. Some people even plan their days in the shower and so on. However, there are certain things in the shower which are incredulously annoying. Firstly, we have this motion sensor exhaust fan in the shower, which turns on every time it senses movement, and even goes on, when you are just walking across the hallway. This makes me feel like the fan is saying, ‘I’ve got my eye on you, baby!’

Also, the shower knob which controls the mix for hot and cold is my arch nemesis. I am never able to find the correct mix and more often than not, either end up getting scalded or frozen to death. And then of course, there is the one off instance when someone tries to get in the bathroom while you are inside. It goes somewhat like this. You are inside the bathroom, going about the business. Then you see the light turn off and a turn at the door knob. That should give the person outside a hint that someone’s still in. But occasionally an idiot or two will think that they just didn’t have a good enough go at the knob, and try again. So, in that case, I would turn the tap on for a second or two in order to create some noise so they know I am inside (as if the door being locked isn’t sign enough!).

And then again, I wonder, why didn’t I just call out to the person to let them know that I am inside. How do I explain this? I think it is because when I am in the bathroom, I feel like I have gone through a worm hole and crossed into another universe, and I no longer wish to communicate with anyone in the universe I just left behind. Is this just me or any of you feel the same?

Why I can’t keep running

writing journal
The dandy dandelion!

I should thank my dear friend Monica for sharing this web article with me about the benefits of running. It ‘jogged’ my memory, and I recalled the last time I had gone traipsing along the Saar.

I am sure many of you will resonate with on this- any form of exercise, running  included is immensely difficult to sustain. Especially if you haven’t paid that monthly subscription fee to keep yourself clawed into an establishment. It occurred to me that I must try and get back into running, not merely because I want to stay healthy, because ‘staying healthy’ is a reason so often thrown about casually that it fails to impact anyone anymore. It is almost  the same as telling smokers that cigarettes are unhealthy. We all know it, but continually fail to act. So I told myself, if I was to arrest continuing investment in larger cupsizes, I must put my running shoes  back on (Ladies, you know what I am talking about, don’t you?)!

The only thing which worries me, however, is staying motivated. Everytime I get slightly regular, I end up faltering. It is always either too cold, or too hot or I just washed my hair. And everyone knows how hard it is to get back into it once you stop. Also, the problem with all these articles about running, is that they try to point out the magic, the fresh air, the endorphins making us giddy like chocolate and cheese do (not together, of course). In my humble opinion, is far from true. Running is a mind numbing exercise, during which all you can think about is how to get the next bout of oxygen to your starved lungs, while somehow courageously and miraculously not stopping. There are no miracles to witness. No cheerleading squads await you. There is nothing to keep you going on, but yourself.

So I reckoned, if I am to sustain this habit, I must try and get used to the routine. I must make friends with ‘monotony’, who in turn (if I am lucky) might introduce me to her friend ‘discipline’. With the newfound excitement for the impending boredom, I hopped out of house, on to the riverside. As a sunny spring late afternoon would have it, I saw several people walking in groups, couples holding hands, children on their tricycles and skateboards, dogs playing fetch with their humans. And to my surprise, I even saw a solitary human or two jogging, as though telling me to carry on as well. To add to that, grass was ludicrously green and the river smelled like the soggy fragrance that was the sushi restaurant. Logs and twigs hitchhiked with the river creating a soothing environment and soon, I was having more fun than I imagined. Could it be the endorphins as the article had suggests, I couldn’t figure out. And then to my utmost horror, I spotted a dandelion in the grass and lost all my shit.

As I walked back home, I was trying to soak in the amazing hour it had been while repeating to myself that I couldn’t expect it to be the same everyday and it was alright. A few minutes from home, I saw this child on the pavement trying to tackle three steps to get back into the house along with his little bicycle, tripped and fell down. As I rushed to help, I saw that the mother was standing by the door, waiting for the child to get back on its feet. And she did. I suppose she was trying to teach her how to climb the stairs. Although, could she be teaching her that even when there is no-one coming forward to help us, the best thing that we can do is to trust ourselves and carry on?  I am waiting to see if I can trust myself this time.

P.S.- If you feel like you have encountered something similar yourself, comment below and let me know how you stay disciplined with regard to working out, or something else you were having trouble with.

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons after two consecutive days in bed

 

IMG_20160428_203952218_HDR
‘Yours is the light by which my spirit’s born’, said my lamp (E.E. Cummings) to the setting sun.

As the title might suggest, recently, I had the pleasure of spending two days straight in bed when I got up only to eat, visit the bathroom and a one and a half hour german class to the university. I would describe this experience as one which made me feel immensely lazy despite having slept more than enough and tired while having done nothing at all. I cannot be sure of why it happened, but I concluded that it is easy to slip into this state. Before you go ‘Oh, this is so you!’, I want you to know that I am making progress, so here are some lessons I jotted down for myself for future reference:

  1. Readjust the bedside mirror so your reflection isn’t seen in it while you sleep, or you will have the recurring nightmare about having to fly to Moscow without roubles.
  2. The slight ache in your lower back that you have soon after you wake up will go away after you get out of bed and move about. If it doesn’t, you might want to change your mattress or consult a physician. (Disclaimer: Please do not take medical advice from this blog, whatsoever!)
  3. The bloated feeling you have, doesn’t necessarily mean you have a stomach disorder. Try getting out of the bed and peeing. (Disclaimer, ibid)
  4. Although, bedside table is a convenient place for storing consumables, you might experience an increased propensity to drop cups full of tea (in my case, fortunately the sheets, laptop and the carpet were spared). Therefore, try to train yourself into not drinking tea in bed.
  5. Three seasons of ‘Girls’ is not too many to get through in two days. However, if you get a headache, try reducing the brightness of your laptop screen and focussing (with your eyes) on a distant spot in your room or out of the window.
  6. The ‘still not unpacked’ suitcase lying in the middle of the room is a safety hazard.
  7. Unplug the phone and/or laptop charger once you begin to feel drowsy. Also switch off the bedside lamp before falling asleep or it might remain lit through the day with an increased chance of you not noticing it.
  8. Try not to clean your room anytime during this spell because you will be too lazy to replace the vacuum cleaner to its designated place afterwards.
  9. Fold the duvet back for a sense of closure.
  10. Refrain from spending two consecutive days in bed.